Toronto Maple Leafs: Where Does Burke Stand Among Team's General Managers?

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistDecember 28, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 23: Brian Burke of the Toronto Maple Leafs attends day two of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft at Consol Energy Center on June 23, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs have had had eight general managers in the last 30 years.

From Gerry McNamara, who took over in 1982 from the legendary Punch Imlach all the way through Brian Burke, the Maple Leafs have had flawed general managers who have failed to deliver a championship team.

In the years since the 2004-05 lockout, the Leafs have failed to make the playoffs.

That puts a lot of heat on Burke, who has been on the job since 2008. Most general managers would feel significant pressure in the second year of their regime to get to the playoffs. Some might not get a third year to show their skills.

Those that do would almost certainly be fired if they didn't get the team in the postseason tournament in the third year.

Burke has made his share of mistakes, but his predecessors probably made even more.

When Gord Stellick was general manager from 1988 to 1989, he traded speedy Russ Courtnall to the Montreal Canadiens for tough guy John Kordic. Courtnall had 195 points in 240 games for the Habs, while Kordic had 437 penalty minutes in 101 games for the Leafs.

Stellick ultimately quit the Leafs, claiming team president Harold Ballard did not let him do his job without interfering.

Cliff Fletcher had two stints as Leafs' general manager. His first tour was from 1991 through '97; he also served as an interim general manager in 2008.

Fletcher will forever be remembered as the boss who brought Doug Gilmour to the Leafs. Gilmour was one of the Leafs' best players over the past 20 years. He nearly led them to a Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 1993, but they lost the seventh game of their semifinals to the Los Angeles Kings. Gilmour scored 32 goals and had 95 assists that season.

Fletcher also hired head coach Pat Burns, who coached the Leafs from 1992 through '96. He was a demanding no-nonsense coach who got results.

Fletcher was almost certainly the best Leafs general manager of the last 30 years.

Hall of Fame goalie Ken Dryden (1997-99) followed the non-descript regime of Floyd Smith, and Dryden certainly had the intelleigence to do the job. However, Dryden's regime may have had its downfall in the overthinking of every move he considered.

After Pat Quinn was hired as head coach, he later took over the general manager's position in 1999. He may have been filled with bluster and hot air, but he let players like Steve Sullivan and Brad Boyes get away before they became productive scorers with other teams.

John Ferguson Jr. followed Quinn, and he failed miserably. One of his worst moves was bringing in Andrew Raycroft and thinking he could be a competent goalie for the Leafs. The basic truth was that after Raycroft had a solid rookie season in Boston in 2000-01, he has been unable to stop a beach ball since then.

Fletcher's second stint (2008) with the Leafs preceded Burke's hiring.

Burke acquired Phil Kessel from the Boston Bruins. While Kessel has scored 30 goals or more for three straight seasons in a Leafs uniform, he gave up two first-round draft choices and a second-round draft choice for Kessel.

The first-round draft picks turned out to be Tyler Seguin and super prospect Dougie Hamilton. While Seguin and Hamilton may become superstars, Kessel is a consistent scorer with a terrific wrist shot and excellent speed.

Burke has gained high marks for his role in the You Can Play Project, which encourages the acceptance of gay athletes in all sports. Burke's son Brendan was gay and was the student-manager of the Miami (Ohio) hockey team. He died in a car crash.

However, he has been no better than middle-of-the-pack when it comes to player procurement for a team that has struggled repeatedly in that area.


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